A Brief History of Trading the No. 1 Pick
2017: The process de-processed
In the days leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics stunned everyone when they traded the first overall pick for the third overall pick and a future pick in 2019.
This is honestly one of the least complex and smallest hauls that a team has gotten for the top pick. That was a statement both of how much the Boston Celtics were sure Tatum was their guy and how sure the team was that neither the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3 or the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2 were going to take him.
The Celtics had a position of power in not going with the flow and taking Fultz, who was the consensus top pick in this draft.
They took advantage of a 76ers team that was in complete turmoil. Bryan Colangelo had just taken over a year before for Sam Hinkie. And the 76ers were still sorting through what they had in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers were still figuring out if they were doing the Process or actually going for it.
This was a brilliant trade from Danny Ainge and the Celtics, hiding who they were actually interested in and playing a team’s desperation against them.
It is easy to forget now how such a runaway Fultz was as the top pick. He was a dominant scorer at Washington, doing all the things Orlando Magic fans know he can do now in addition to hitting pull-up jumpers and 3-pointers with ease. This was before TOS hampered his shooting significantly.
He entered the draft with a knee injury that kept him out since February. So despite his prodigious talent, it is easy to see why some teams might have some questions. The Celtics certainly did and ultimately made the right choice going for Tatum.
The Magic are obviously in a very different situation. There are three good options and the cat-and-mouse game of trying to figure out who everyone wants — outside of maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder’s fascination with Chet Holmgren — is a bit unclear.
It is not clear whether the Magic would be willing to part with the choice or how much it would cost in case their preferred player is not there.
Maybe the Magic have no preference and would be happy to take something extra — although I would argue they do not have the room on their roster to eat up more draft picks, nor the desire to continue a prolonged rebuild.
The Celtics were right to fish around for a deal when they understood their guy was not the consensus top pick. That does not seem to be the case here.